High seat tips and tricks

James Sutcliffe

James Sutcliffe

James Sutcliffe is BASC’s deer officer. He has over 10 years’ experience of recreational and professional deer stalking and gamekeeping. He has spent time guiding in New Zealand and managing wild boar and red stags in Germany. James is a keen rifle and shotgun shooter who enjoys working his Labradors throughout the game shooting season.

In the world of rifle shooting, a high seat is an invaluable bit of equipment.

We use them for all manner of shooting; deer management, fox control or rabbiting. They are a great way to ambush your quarry and boost the safety of your shooting. Here, I will try to lay down a few tips and tricks I have picked up over the years to help you make the most of your shooting.

Location, location, location

The first thing to do is to decide on where your seat is going – everything else clicks into place after that. Think about safety and practicality. There’s no point having a perfectly made and 100% safe seat in a place where you’re never going to see your target species.

Make sure you’re away from any public footpaths, not looking straight at roads etc., and give yourself a wide field of view. There’s nothing worse than being stuck staring down a tiny ride.

As productive as it might be, you will find yourself getting bored, so give yourself plenty to look at. To avoid ricochets, try to avoid positioning yourself over stony ground, especially if using a .22.

If you’re after foxes, put the seat near well-used trods or perhaps overlooking grass fields. These will be especially productive when the grass is cut, as foxes will be out looking for any unfortunate creatures that got caught in the mower! Baiting them in front of your high seat can also be a very effective way of controlling them. For deer, sites overlooking well-used deer paths and grazing areas will again boost your chances.

Tower or portable?

Are you going to be happy leaving your seat there for the foreseeable future, or would you feel happier with the option of taking it down and moving it after each session?

Depending on your needs, there are many designs out there. A portable high seat packs down into a rucksack size for transporting, or you can build your own. You might want a simple lean-to seat or you might need to go for a freestanding tower seat, with four walls and a roof.

The list goes on but consider your requirements and tailor your seats to that. It’s worth bearing in mind that for permanently-placed high seats, you may need to contact your local planning department. If a seat is for the protection of forestry or agriculture, it should not need planning permission but it’s best to check with the experts.

Wood or metal?

This pretty much comes down to wood or metal. Wooden high seats are far easier to construct and maintain but will require far more frequent upkeep than a metal seat.

Metal seats tend to be more expensive to buy and trickier to make yourself, but with a bit of TLC will last a lifetime. I’d be wary of plastic components on bought-in seats, as exposure to the elements often makes them brittle. If you’re building one yourself, there are many handy guides and styles out there. If you decide to buy, make sure you use a reputable vendor.

Depending on your budget, BushWear sells relatively cheap portable seats that are more than fit for purpose. Whereas specialists such as Keith Watson of Keith’s Highseats make some of the best seats I have ever used, albeit at a slightly higher price. I find that you tend to get what you pay for, and these more expensive seats will last longer.

Home comforts

Based on my own experience, sitting in a high seat for any length of time can fast become a cold and uncomfortable experience. When this happens, you will tend to fidget, potentially making noise and movement to alert your prey, and you will likely call time on a session long before it gets interesting.

To fight the cold, wrap up warm. Think plenty of layers, thick socks, gloves, hats and scarves. These will all help to keep you toasty. In some of the box seats just putting a bit of old carpet on the floor will help stop your toes freezing while also deadening noise. Foam seat cushions are often ridiculed, but they will make sitting on a cold wet seat far more pleasant.

Boost your shooting

High seats are a fantastic way to make safe and steady shots, so why not make the most of this?

Make sure that any rail you use as a rifle rest is rock solid, you don’t want to be wobbling about when you’re about to squeeze the trigger. I find using some pipe insulation foam to cover the rail helps. It will deaden any thuds or clangs, tends to let the rifle settle on the rail better, and stops it getting scratched.

I appreciate a rest for the elbow of my firing hand, as I think it makes me far steadier. This can be achieved simply by fixing a plank to rest on, although it may be tricky in smaller seats.

Safety first

Safety must always be uppermost in your mind when shooting, especially  when using a high seat. Obviously you need to make sure the seat is secure and fit for purpose by conducting regular checks, but there are other little things that I find help to reduce any incidents.

On wooden seats I wrap the rungs of the ladder with chicken wire for a bit of grip. They can get slimy and slippery after a while, and it can be a long way down. Obviously, rifles must be unloaded before climbing up, and I find that a length of rope secured at the top of the seat can come in handy. To avoid banging your gun, or if space is tight, just tie it to the rope then hoist it up once you’re at the top.

Another important thing is to attach a sign to the ladder warning people not to climb up. This will help to deter people from hurting themselves or tampering with your seat.

Make the most of it

Hopefully you will have good results with your high seats, they really are a useful addition to any rifle shooter’s kit. Here are a few more things to consider;

  • Properly mark any shot quarry. It can be tempting to rush down to try and find your prize but take your time.
  • Everything can look a fair bit different from a height, so make sure you know where to look!
  • Know your limits. Yes, a high seat gives you a stable shooting platform, but that is no reason or excuse to start trying to shoot silly distances. You owe it to whatever you’re aiming at to kill it quickly and humanely, so keep within ranges you’re comfortable with.
  • And finally, smoking! Some stalkers think that a high seat is the perfect place to light up. Deer aren’t overly fond of the smell or red glow, but the midges might give you a bit of space.
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